This past week I spent some time drafting sample meditations for an Advent series that I’m applying to write for a publisher. (If I get the job, I’ll tell you more about it and where you can, eventually, buy the book.) As I read the scripture passages assigned for the first week in Advent 2021 (yes, we’re working way in advance here!), I found myself pondering our climate crisis as it’s reflected in the readings—specifically, though not exclusively, in those scriptures that focus on end times. While the material for this post didn’t make it into my sample meditation series, I feel that it’s all part of a broader picture.
When I began praying about what to write for this post, I found myself recalling some of the photos I took of pinecones in Colorado. These beautiful seed packets are incredibly durable, holding dozens of seeds in safety for sometimes decades before the conditions are right for sprouting.
Sometimes those conditions can be pretty severe. Long before we humans were carelessly setting wildfires, nature ignited them through lightning strikes. While much of the forest would burn, it wasn’t all bad. As I wrote two years ago in an article for Ordinary Mystic (which is no longer available on their website):
Lightning strikes periodically burned sections of forest over the course of centuries, even eons, but the forest itself, as a whole, was never destroyed. In fact, the forest was renewed through that burning. Dead, dry underbrush was consumed and its ash fed the next generation of plants. The breath of life could move between trees. Sunlight penetrated to the understory, supporting another cycle of growth. We know that fire is not anathema to creation for the simple reason that plants like the jack pine actually require fire for procreation. Jack pinecones are very durable and filled with resin. They remain dormant until a firestorm erupts, melting the resin and releasing the seeds to begin a new cycle of life.
This doesn’t mean I welcome all the fires burning across the world. In fact, I grieve the sharp increase in fire activity, especially in places like the Amazon. I grieve because so many of these fires are not part of a natural cycle. Plants in the Amazon are not genetically predisposed toward benefiting from a firestorm. Regeneration there will be a lot more complicated.
What I do embrace is the firestorm of attention. While the Internet and social media can consume endless hours of our attention and raise our stress levels, they also bring important issues to our attention. I like this article in particular because it ends with concrete actions that we, as individuals, can take. We cannot fly down to the Amazon and put out fires, but we can take concrete actions that, collectively, can make a difference.
So, I’m embracing the image of the pinecone this week, and the need for a firestorm of attention about our climate crisis.
What are you embracing?